Inner Dimensions, The Radiographic World of William Conklin

by William Conklin. W.R.S. Publishing Co., Waco, TX. 1995. xi + 101 pages, 11" X 11", hardcover. $29.95. Order direct from W.R.S. Publishing by calling (800)299-3366.
A new and very unusual book is appearing on the coffee tables of shell collectors around the country. Inner Dimensions, by William Conklin, a COA member from Orangeburg, S.C., features radiographic photos of shells. We've seen such photos, revealing the inner structure of a shell through a light and dark x-ray image. But to peruse a whole book of them, and one as beautifully assembled as this, is quite an experience. For one so enamored of the shapes and swirls of mollusc shells as a shell collector is, it can amount to an uplifting journey of the spirit. We marvel at the internal intricacy of a well-decorated carrier shell and its adornments, admire the precise mathematical progression of Buccinum leucostomum, wander the many-roomed mansion of the Emperor's Slit Shell, and cherish the pas de deux of a cowry shell with its inner bulla-child.

Forty-nine molluscs and a sand dollar have their internal complexities revealed by Dr. Conklin's photos, a full-page white image on black ground. On each facing page is a smaller, full-color photo of the shell itself, almost always a really excellent specimen, lovingly lighted and photographed, along with a standard short bio of the species, including interesting facts and anecdotes, size, locality and degree of rarity.

Completing each full-page spread is a scrap of appropriate poetry, selected by librarian and author Christine Boldt. The predictable shelly works by Victorians are there, including both the "This is the ship of pearl" part and the "Build thee more stately mansions" bit from Oliver Wendell Holmes' "The Chambered Nautilus." But there are other, more surprising and very apt, inclusions: The Junonia is teamed with Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Pied Beauty": "Glory be to God for dappled things...." and a quote from Plato's Phaedrus as comment on an Achatina land shell: "Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who here abide, grant me to be beautiful in the inner man, and all I have of outer things to be at peace with those within."

Also of interest are the Introduction on shells and shell collecting by Alan H. Shoemaker, a South Carolina Zoologist, and a Foreword by Professor of Radiology William W. Orrison, Jr. which provides the reader with a little background on radiology. This isn't a book you can't live without, but it's one that will bring you hours of peaceful contemplation on a subject close to your heart, the lure of the shell and its variations on a theme. And in these days of horrendously expensive shell books, it's quite a bargain.